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Facebook CEO Zuckerberg To Testify Before Congress

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We already knew that the firm Cambridge Analytica had abused data from Facebook users, but now we know the number of people whose data was compromised is much higher than first reported. Yesterday Facebook said as many as 87 million people may have had their Facebook data improperly shared with the consulting firm that had ties to the 2016 Trump campaign. Previous estimates had put that number at 50 million users. And in a call with reporters yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that he is personally at fault.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

MARK ZUCKERBERG: We didn't take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is, and that was a huge mistake. It was my mistake.

MARTIN: Zuckerberg will appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week. We are joined now by one of the members of that committee, Democratic Representative Tony Cardenas, who will be there asking Mark Zuckerberg questions. Congressman, thanks for being with us.

TONY CARDENAS: My pleasure. Thanks for covering this important issue.

MARTIN: What questions will you put to Mark Zuckerberg?

CARDENAS: Well, I want to know, when did Facebook know it? I want to know, how many people have potentially been affected? I want to know what they should have been doing about it, what they are going to be doing about it and how they're going to protect people's privacy and their information.

MARTIN: Do you think the number of people whose data could have been abused is higher than 87 million people?

CARDENAS: In my experience, it sounds like by the time we get to April 11, to the Energy and Commerce Committee, that number is probably going to be higher. And what I hope does not happen is that the numbers that we're talking about and they admit to on that date don't change after that fact. I hope that they do their due diligence, investigate the situation, and come up with as much truthful information as is available and so that we can get down to the bottom of it as quickly as possible.

MARTIN: Facebook officials say there's nothing they can do to get the data back that Cambridge Analytica already has. Is that true, and if so what do you tell the 87 million people who've had their data abused by the firm?

CARDENAS: Well, that's one of the reasons why we're having this hearing. I'm going to ask Mark Zuckerberg, what does he mean by that? If that, in fact, is his answer. And why is it that that's the case? I can't imagine that they would have agreements with organizations like Cambridge Analytica or Professor Kogan that actually does not allow Facebook to retain the rights to that information upon notice.

MARTIN: Yesterday Zuckerberg said that he intends to implement tighter restrictions on companies that use their services. Let's listen to this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

ZUCKERBERG: We actually have to ensure that everyone in our ecosystem protects people's information.

MARTIN: He's talking about these third-party apps that use Facebook. That raises the question, what can you as members of Congress do to make sure that Facebook keeps its word? I mean, what is your leverage here?

CARDENAS: Well, through the laws that we could in fact implement, and also through the commissions that oversee this kind of technology and these corporations. We can enforce these rules and or laws going forward. But right now it's important that Facebook come up with the truth so that we can actually evaluate and see what the situation is, how we can remedy it and how we can help make sure that the confines of this information are in fact clearer so that in the future these kinds of incidences don't happen. Whether it's a million people or it's a billion people, potentially, the issue here is, what is Facebook doing about it to protect its users, and what is Facebook doing to make sure that it is not only adhering to the letter of the law but that they're actually keeping to their fiduciary responsibility to their users, as well?

MARTIN: Zuckerberg has said that he's open to some kind of regulation. Can you tell me what that might look like? Can you give me an example of a regulation that would help ensure that this kind of privacy breach doesn't happen again?

CARDENAS: A regulation, for example, would be what they call opt in or opt out clause. That means that the user actually has a responsibility and is afforded the opportunity, at first opportunity, between their relationship to decide what, how and where that information can be utilized. And so it's really important for Facebook to understand that in other industries such as banking, such as when they use people's information, those laws are already in place in certain areas. And Facebook could see themselves, in their industry, subject to those kinds of laws.

MARTIN: Real quick. Do you think the U.S. should implement the same kind of privacy restrictions that the EU has?

CARDENAS: Well, we're looking into that to see if that's the case. But what's important is that we get the clean information on April 11 so that we can make those kinds of decisions.

MARTIN: Congressman Tony Cardenas of California, thanks so much.

CARDENAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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